Oyster Dressing Stuffed Mushrooms

Sunday, December 23, 2018

This post is part of a paid partnership with Bounty. The content and opinions expressed are all mine.

One day I'll get my mom to sign off on oyster dressing for the holidays. It wasn't this year, or last year, or even the year before. My grandmother (her mom) used to prepare the most amazing clam and linguiça sausage dressing for Thanksgiving every year, so the problem isn't the inclusion of seafood. But at the mere mention of "oysters" my mom just shudders. Sadly it's a no, for now at least. Until then, my way of getting what I want is to put it in an appetizer. Large white mushrooms are perfect for stuffing with just about anything. In this case the oyster dressing I don't get to serve as a side dish becomes the perfect holiday starter. I prepare the "regular" cornbread dressing for dinner, then use leftover ingredients the next day to get a taste of what I really wanted. Everybody wins.

The one thing my mom and I do agree on? That Bounty paper towels are a necessity in this house. She appreciates that Bounty gets the kitchen restored back to pristine condition after my culinary escapades, and I rely on the versatility of durable paper towels as a tool for my cooking tasks.

I used to get a little stressed trying to follow recipes for dressing, but the truth is, there's no singular way to do things. Use my notes below as guidelines to improvise with the food you have on hand.
  • Crumbled cornbread makes up the bulk of the dressing, but the texture is improved by including a couple slices of white bread or panko crumbs. Crushed crackers would probably also do the trick in a pinch. 
  • If you can't get your hands on fresh shucked oysters, smoked oysters are a tasty and economical substitution. They're also probably a better choice for folks who are on the fence about the briny flavor of fresh oysters, though I love both versions equally. 
  • Bacon adds some depth and a touch of additional smokiness, but it's not a deal breaker to leave the pork out. 
  • To go with the Cajun flavor profile, I used a classic combination of onions, celery and bell pepper (the "trinity), and it also worked well to replace the bell pepper with spicier Fresno chili peppers for extra heat. 

Just don't skimp on the herbs! Fresh herbs are a must all year round, but they're especially critical to bringing holiday recipes to life. A hack I use to keep sturdier herbs like parsley, rosemary and thyme fresher longer, is to wrap them loosely in a slightly damp sheet of Bounty, as it really helps lock in moisture better.

Store the wrapped herbs in plastic zip bags in the fridge. No more having to toss out brown, dried out herbs every week that you never got to use.

Though there's a little bit of prep involved in preparing stuffed mushrooms, it's offset by the ease of doing everything in one large oven-safe skillet. I prefer to use my 12" cast iron skillet here. You can also assemble the mushrooms, refrigerate, and bake up to a day later.

Oyster Dressing Stuffed Mushrooms

4 slices of bacon, diced
1/2 onion, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
1 celery rib, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
3 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated on a microplane
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Kosher salt, as needed
Cajun or creole seasoning, as needed (my recipe is here if you want to make your own)*
2 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
2 tsp finely chopped thyme
1/4 cup finely sliced scallions or chives
4 oz day-old cornbread, crumbled (about a cup)
A couple slices of day-old white bread, crumbled or torn into small pieces, or 1/2 cup panko crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
12 oz fresh shucked oysters in their liquor (or 2 tins smoked oysters)
1 lb large or "stuffer" mushrooms
4 tbsp unsalted butter (use as needed)
Hot sauce, for serving

*A salt-free seasoning blend is best, to control the sodium in your recipe. If your spice mix already includes salt, be careful adding additional salt to the dressing.

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yield: Makes about 1 dozen
Special Equipment: Large cast iron skillet or other heavy bottomed pan, grater or zester, poultry shears (optional.)

In a large oven-safe skillet, cook the bacon pieces over medium heat until crisp. Transfer the cooked bacon crumbles to a plate lined with a Bounty sheet. A single sheet is absorbent enough to soak up excess grease, so there's no need to waste half a roll here. Any bacon fat left in the skillet can be used to cook the vegetables later.

While the bacon cooks, prep your mushrooms. I always use a damp sheet of Bounty to brush off any debris on mushrooms. One thing I love about Bounty is that they are strong enough to wet with water and squeeze out like a rag, without tearing, and reuse again - have you seen another paper towel do that?! If your mushrooms are caked with dirt, by all means give them a quick rinse first, just don't allow mushrooms to hang out too long in water as they'll soak it up like a sponge.

Scrape out the stems and as much as the dark brown gills as you can without breaking the mushroom caps. You can freeze the stems to add to stocks or soups another day.

Back to the skillet. If you have less than a couple tablespoons of bacon fat in the skillet, add a pat of butter. Saute the onions, celery and pepper just until softened. Stir in the garlic, and if using, crushed red pepper. (You may not want to add hot peppers if you're already using a chili pepper, and/or have a spicy Cajun seasoning blend.)  Season the mixture generously with your Cajun rub and salt, to taste. Stir in the chopped herbs and scallions. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool as you prep the next ingredients.

Whether you're using fresh or smoked oysters, the oysters need to be chopped up. For fresh oysters, the key is not losing all that precious oyster liquor all over your counter. In my original quest to research oyster dressing recipes, I picked up a tip from Serious Eats to cut up the oysters in (or over) the container using poultry shears. 

Though there will still be some liquid in a tin of smoked oysters, it's not as wet. It worked fine to chop these up on a cutting board, reserving the liquid in the tin.

Regardless of the type of oysters you use, once they're chopped up, stir them into the skillet with the cooked veggies. (Just the oysters. Reserve any liquor or liquid from the containers, to moisten the dressing at the end.) Double check seasoning, adding a pinch of salt and/or Cajun spices if needed.

Stir in the egg, lightly beaten. Then add the crumbled cornbread and bread crumbs.

Finally, add some of the reserved oyster liquor to moisten the oyster dressing. Just enough that it will hold together if pressed gently into a spoon. Because the mushrooms give up so much excess liquid, you don't need to make the dressing too wet. Stir in the cooked bacon. Transfer the dressing to a bowl and set aside.

You can bake the mushrooms right in the same skillet, so just wipe it clean. A damp paper towel does the trick here too. Even against rougher surfaces, Bounty holds up without leaving bits of paper behind. I mean look at how the sheets are woven!

Melt a tablespoon of butter in the skillet over low heat. Add a pinch of Cajun spice and swirl the butter around to grease the skillet. Turn off the heat. Place the mushroom caps in the skillet. Dot the inside of each cavity with a tiny bit of butter. Sprinkle the mushrooms with salt.

Note: If you don't have an oven-safe skillet, just lightly grease a casserole dish instead.

Stuff the mushrooms with a couple tablespoons of the oyster dressing, each. Dot with butter. (Don't look at me like that. If you're going to make a stuffing or dressing, you can't be shy with the butter.)

Heat your oven to 350°F. Bake the stuffed mushrooms for 15 to 20 minutes, until tops are golden brown.

Allow them to cool for a few minutes, then carefully transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with hot sauce and enjoy! 

One last thing. Here’s a little tip on how to clean that cast iron skillet, because we could all use more kitchen hacks: Pour a cup of coarse Kosher salt into your (still warm) skillet, and scrub off any stuck-on food with a Bounty sheet. Next, rinse the pan with hot water. After rinsing, place a sheet of Bounty inside the cast iron skillet. Bounty will also absorb excess moisture and prevent it from rusting. Now your cast iron skillet will be ready to go for the next recipe!

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  1. That recipe plus the hacks using Bounty were an awesome read. I will definitely be sharing with my fellow home chefs. With the holidays things can get a bit boring, but this right here is the answer we needed complete with clean up!!